Stealing Share sponsored a quick survey of people who watched the Republican debate on August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The results are not terribly surprising but interesting none the less. The format of the debates raised a lot of hackles because of the sheer number of debaters. The viewers who took the study were evenly divided when asked if there were too many debaters.
But they were less divided when asked if too many debaters were left out. Only 26% believed the field should have included the debaters that took part in the pre-debate debate.
Donald Trump was the favorite candidate entering the debate by a large margin as 51.8% of the respondents held Trump as their favorite. None of the other candidates broke into double digits.
Did the debate change anyone’s mind?
We wanted to know so we asked. As it turns out, 26% of the respondents did have a change of allegiance after watching the debate but 74% stayed loyal to their pre-debate choice. The respondents hailed from both major parties with only Libertarians underrepresented. 40% said they were registered Republicans and 7.9% identified themselves as members of the Tea Party. Assuming that Tea Party supporters tend to vote Republican, roughly 50% of the respondents could be classified as being Republican. Democrats made up 28% of the study and 22.5% called themselves Registered Independents.
Three quarters of the respondents said they watched the entire debate and two thirds said they watched the post debate commentary. There were only small differences in viewing when we broke it down by political party affiliation. Independents tended to watch less of the debate with approximately 50% saying they did not watch the entire debate.
Who did they prefer after the debate?
The winners here were Donald Trump, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson with Trump still leading by double figures. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie seemed to have lost the most ground. But the negatives seems most severe with Governor Christie and Rand Paul. When asked who they would not be willing to support in the general election, many of the top candidates had very high negatives with Donald Trump being the most polarizing. He was the favorite and in the top five of those whom voters would not support.
Ben Carson had the fewest objections to voters in the general election and Marco Rubio seems acceptable to most voters.
When we queried respondents about the issues that were most important to them in this election, only reasonable gun control and changing the US to a Christian country were considered unimportant. There were some interesting differences between these issues when we looked at the motivations of the Trump supporters.
Generally speaking, the Trump supporters had higher intensities in the issues that mattered to them. And they mimicked closely the campaign talking points of the Trump campaign itself. Only reasonable gun control was viewed as unimportant with the Trump supporters and they were in favor of making the US a Christian country— unlike the rest of the respondents who did not favor this constitutional change.
Of all the changes that modern technology has ushered in, nothing is more distressing than the demise of the daily newspaper. Across the globe, newsrooms are clipping the wings of their staff of reporters, closing domestic and foreign bureaus, and relinquishing the seeming insurmountable battle for being the news of record. As a result of the advertising hole in newspapers shrinking to a small fraction of its former glory, even if readership levels remain constant, newspapers are forced to retract. (Read our take on CNN)
I’m not saying that I have the solution for this downward slope towards this event horizon. However, I do know how to find it.
Newspapers Have a Brand Sweet Spot
The purpose of a brand is to protect a product or company from always having to be first, most innovative, or even the best. At its core, brand seeks to so clearly identify its core customer that to purchase anything else is a form of suicide. Sadly, when I think about the demise of local newsprint, it feels more like genocide than suicide. The next great extinction may not be found in Darwin’s work but rather in the esteemed readership of the clearly informed. Unless at least one newspaper invests in fixing the problem, the industry is doomed and, as a result, so are those of us who desire to be informed.
And in this conundrum is the rub. If newspapers are an important part of the self-description of being one of the informed, how can that void go unfilled? How will we get our news in the next 10 years? What will happen to our self-identification as being on of those that knows? (Read some of the foibles in brand creation here)
Many on the inside believe that the problem with rescuing newspapers is the deft of advertisers. After all, we all knew that the real cost of putting together a daily paper was never covered by the newsstand price. The advertising section paid it for.
This is a part of the puzzle that will be harder to fix. Online resources for the real-estate section, automotive section and classified ads have been replaced by an online access that is more efficient. Don’t expect those ad sections to ever recover. Markets move inevitably toward economy and there is nothing we can or should do about that. But there is hope.
The Current Model of News is Not Working
Listen to the meta chatter going on all around us. More and more viewers find the major news networks anything but newsworthy. For the most part, they are talking heads chattering on with bias and agendas. They are spin-doctors masquerading as experts who blow everything out of proportion, incite vitriol, and repeat the same tired refrains until they all look like automatons.
People increasingly complain about the quality of the news they get and yet more and more rely on web news portals and cable news networks for their fill of timely nuggets. While these blurbs keep us well informed on our sports addiction and Hollywood gossip, we all know that it is a poor substitute for hard hitting and revealing news. Despite this duality of a lack of meaningful news and a retracting of local newspapers, readership is still declining.
Remember the old story of the fat, cigar smoking railroad executive from the 1920s with his feet up on the desk and his gaze resting on a wall of awards and certificates? Then suddenly, a young twenty-something busts through his door in excitement and says to his boss as he point out the window at a passing bi-plane — “Boss, we need to get into that airplane business!” The boss replies, in a self-assured way…”Kid” he says, “get out of here…we are a railroad.”
Why are Newspapers Failing?
I think the term newspaper is about as meaningful today as a checking account. It needs a new definition. Something that says the reader is knowledgeable and different. Informed and not opinionated. Engaged and not obsessive. Well rounded and not a demagogue. These self-identifications are the silversmith’s hallmark of a brand. They cause a magnetic property that attracts everyone who covets that moniker. Of course, it means that the truth of the statement must be made explicit. Should the new newspaper be about entertainment? I think in a small way, but I would let the research help me with that. Conventional wisdom, by the editors that are as near underwater as an air breathing creature can be, will tell you about the most widely read sections of the paper. But that readership roadmap might not be so important to the new generation of loyalists that a new brand of paper must excite to survive. All I am saying is that someone must take a fresh look at this category because the conventional wisdom of experience is failing them. If a newspaper is to survive, thrive, and grow in importance, the managerial staff must be willing to challenge everything. The answer may or may not be an online subscription. What I am suggesting is that there are a lot of tried and true ideas that need to be abandoned.
Fixing the Flight of Advertisers
The shrinking news hole is another important hurdle but I think fixing the first— finding the highest emotional intensity of the informed — will help fix that problem as well.
Ask yourself what businesses covet an educated and informed market? How many advertisers would like to gain direct access to those consumers? I think the answer is not to expand the advertising hole but to think instead of section sponsorship. Link the advertisers directly with the aspirations of the reader. There are no brands that I know of that do not want the blush of a brand association that reflects on importance, integrity and truthfulness. To have that association, newspapers can charge more for that sponsorship and give it excusive prominence. Local restaurants and services would pay handsomely for that access. Not in terms of full sponsorship but to appear in those sections as well.
To my thinking, this is an old model that needs refreshing. When you look at old newspapers or even watch vintage TV, long copy ads and commercial sponsorship seems a little naïve. But that is precisely its power.
Newspapers cannot be allowed to die because our civilization needs a questioning and unbiased arbiter in a free press. We need to rescue newspapers. Will any newspaper take us up on the challenge and ask us to apply our skills of research, persuasion, highest emotional intensity identification and market share growth? Stay tuned. But, I am hopeful.
Rescuing Newspapers was last modified: November 7th, 2014 by Tom Dougherty
No, this blog is not about political parties or government. This blog is about persuasion. It is about how a public policy initiative can be made effective by branding.
Brand is ALWAYS a purposeful reflection of the end user. The world’s most powerful brands help us reinforce our own perceptions of who we think we are. They act as a means of self-expression. When we create a persuasive brand, we look for an emotional intensity that is important to the target audience we need that brand to influence— something that the target covets about their own self identity or, conversely, one they associate with their greatest fear. Either way, focusing on this intensity makes the brand’s message important. It creates a bond with the audience that they cannot ignore.
Often times, we ignore this brand science with public policy. We focus on the rational reasons for acceptance and adoption. It is also commonplace to mistake rational reasons with emotional triggers.
I think we can find a great example of this in the public policy initiative aimed at influencing young people to refrain from smoking. The goal of these initiatives is to try to influence new, underage children from taking up the smoking habit, which is universally understood as an important health risk that leads to addiction and disease.
The policy goals are executed in advertisements that document the horrific and disfiguring effects of the cancers that smoking causes. We think these are emotional images. However, there is a difference between freakish and ghoulish images and the emotional reasons teens turn to smoking.
These images actually reinforce some of the beliefs held by this impressionable group of young people. When they self-define themselves, they talk about living dangerously. They see recklessness as an aspirational individual value. They like to pretend to live in the moment, embrace danger and seriously consider themselves a little bit self-destructive. Showing ghoulish images only reinforces that rebel label.
Youth has always struggled with insecurity and difficulty in finding a meaningful place in society. These are, in fact, the highest emotional intensities and are the keys to changing behavior.
Think for a moment about how smoking is a position statement to their peers. It is meant to speak boldly to their compatriots that they are grown up and rebellious.
Instead of showing cancer-ravaged smokers, the brand should take a different track. Let’s speak the truth about the reasons young folks start smoking. They are insecure about their own place and smoke to tell others who they are.
The public policy brand should grab that idea and BRAND it. Let’s tell would-be smokers that their peers see them as insecure and needing an artifice to prove how grown up they are. It would not take long to stamp out this habit if it carried the BRAND of insecurity and immaturity. These are scarier values to the immortal teen than the far off future of disfiguring and deadly cancer.
Branding is a means to forward public policy was last modified: June 17th, 2015 by Tom Dougherty
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